Another guest author, John Windau, Wildlife Communications Specialist in District Two, writes about the appeal, benefits and process of creating a WILD School Site in Ohio. Look for more upcoming articles from John on this topic.
If you ask someone to describe the world around them, most will describe buildings, streets, bridges, and other structures of human endeavor. Beyond that, fewer and fewer people remember that nature and wildlife still exist in and around the world we have constructed. WILD School Sites, land labs, outdoor classrooms; whatever name you use, these programs remind students and educators that nature exists everywhere. In addition, these sites offer a location for educators to enhance their curriculum by allowing students to apply new styles of learning. The new state standards call for project based learning. WILD School Sites offer one way educators can incorporate project based learning into their teaching.
So what are WILD School Sites and how are they used?
Although learning has always occurred outdoors, most formal education takes place inside a building. WILD School Sites offer a location near the school that can be used by students, teachers, and the school community as a place to learn about and benefit from wildlife and the environment. Every school, regardless of size or location, can provide outdoor educational opportunities that can and should be part of any integrated education program.
The WILD School Site program believes educators should incorporate students in the planning, design, and construction stages of the site. This provides an avenue for cooperative learning, hands-on activities, problem solving, and communication: all 21st century skills students will need.
In addition, outdoor areas provide a setting where the goals of different learning disciplines can be met. This is not just a science program. Math, social studies, language, visual art, as well as science, can all benefit from incorporating outdoor learning into the syllabus. These benefits continue beyond the construction phase. Educators and students continue to use the site to meet education objectives throughout the school year.
So, how do people get started?
Over the next several months, we will feature a series of articles highlighting a few projects which may work in your setting. It is important to remember that no two sites are the same, so each site will face different challenges; however, outdoor education is possible anywhere! There are no size restrictions either. Some sites are quite small, while others can encompass a large area. What is important is that students use the site to become more aware of the environment around them so, as adults, they are better able to make informed decisions.
The Division of Wildlife offers are variety of resources for educators interested in WILD School Sites including training, on-site consultations, start-up grants, and school certification. More information on WILD School Sites can be found at wildohio.com or contact your district’s Wildlife Communications Specialist.